Chemistry Students Take Science to Area Schools

June 29, 2015

Recently, Dr. Sheryl Mason and CHE 115 students at the University of Mount Union showed area elementary and middle school students that science is a part of our everyday lives.

Mason, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Mount Union, has developed a service learning project, which is an outreach component for students in her CHE 115 classes. The second year of this project took place this past spring semester and culminated with the students visiting Washington Elementary and Marlington Middle School where they demonstrated their projects to fourth and seventh graders.

At the start of the semester, students selected a partner for the project and began to search for various demonstrations that both interested them and would to relate to the health or medical fields. Some of the demonstrations the groups found included “Genie in a Bottle” and “Mysterious Sunken Ice Cube.” Once final demonstration choices were made, the groups began to test their findings in the chemistry labs. This allowed them to see if it would work, find any problems with the demonstration and adapt the experiment for the classroom if need be. The teams also used visual aids, including chemical formulas on the board, posters, science equipment ad every day items.

Throughout their test runs, the teams started creating scripts for their demonstrations. The hardest aspect the class and Mason faced was describing the terminology. How do you explain chemistry and college level vocabulary to fourth and seventh graders? Luckily, two of Dr. Mason’s children are in fourth and sixth grades. She also reviewed seventh grade science standards and shared that information with her undergraduates.  One week before the public school presentations, each pair performed a draft presentation for Dr. Mason and their classmates. Peers critiqued each other with the goal of making the presentations accurate, yet fun and “kid-friendly. All of these activities helped the students make adjustments in their scripts and make a few minor changes in their projects.

Demonstration day arrived, and the class was ready to present. Their first stop was Washington Elementary, where half of the class presented to a group of fourth graders, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. With over an hour to use, the class had plenty of time to give their six experiments in both sessions. The fourth graders witnessed a variety of experiments including “Genie in the Bottle,” “Crush the Can,” “Iron in Cereal” and “Elephant’s Toothpaste.”

Later that week, the remainder of the class followed up at Marlington Middle School where they presented to seventh graders. The seventh graders witnessed a variety of demonstrations including “Dragon’s Breath,” “Mysterious Sunken Ice Cube” and “Growling Gummy Bear.”

Mason used this project to help her undergraduate students and the younger students better understand the world through science. She had several goals in mind for the class to take away from the project. Some include having the classes learn that their major and career choice is based off of the science they focus on and enjoy the most. By adding the component of relating these demonstrations to the medical fields, this shows them that the applications they are learning now can eventually come up in a medical situation. She sees this as a way to narrow the gap between classroom experience and real-life situations. With this class being offered mostly to nursing students, Mason wants to show them that they must be willing to communicate and work with people at a variety of age levels and with minimal knowledge of terminology. Mason sees college students as young role models to the younger generation and wants to make sure they give back to the community with the knowledge learned through the classroom. Lastly, she wants the younger generation to be exposed to science so they can become familiar at an early age with how science is used in every day situations.


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